HIPAA_Patient_Manual 33.6 KB

The Privacy Rule was created in order to build a uniform standard for health care providers in
establishing regulations for releasing a patient’s “personal health information” or PHI. The Privacy Rule
centers on when healthcare providers can release PHI without patient consent, and when patient authorization is
required. It also details how much patient information should be disclosed and under what circumstances.
Before we go into the actual Privacy laws it is important that you understand a central term in the
Privacy Regulations. This term is “TPO”, which stands for treatment, payment, or healthcare operations.
Whether or not a disclosure of a patient’s PHI is for purposes of treatment, payment, or healthcare operations
will determine if patient authorization is needed. If a disclosure of patient PHI is made to a third-party for
purposes of treatment, payment, or healthcare operations, no patient authorization is required. Examples of this
type of disclosure would be those made to your billing service or those made to a specialist who is treating your
patient. If the disclosure is for some other “non-routine” purpose, then patient authorization is required. An
example of this type of disclosure might be for marketing or research purposes.
Our practice has developed our “Patient Privacy Policy” which details under what circumstances we will
routinely release patient information without a patient’s prior consent (i.e. T.P.O.), and under what
circumstances we will be required to obtain a patient’s authorization. Please review the copy of our practice’s
Privacy Policy located in the “Forms & Documents” section of this manual and become familiar with it. A
copy of our Patient Privacy Policy must be provided to each of our patients during their next visit, and should
also be posted in our lobby.
We are required to make a good faith effort to obtain an individual's written acknowledgement of receipt of our
notice of privacy practices. The purpose of this acknowledgement process is to alert patients to the importance
of our privacy notice and provide them the opportunity to discuss privacy issues with us.
This acknowledgement should be obtained at the time of the first service delivery, which would generally be
when the patient arrives in your office for an appointment.
While the rule requires the acknowledgement to be in writing, it does not prescribe the other details such as the
form that the acknowledgement must take or the process for obtaining the acknowledgement. For example, all
of the following methods specifically satisfy the definition of written acknowledgement:
A signature on either a separate page or on a signature list,
A patient placing his or her initials on a cover sheet of the notice to be retained by the provider,
An electronic acknowledgement where the patient transmits the receipt of acknowledgement, which may
not necessarily his or her signature (this is an important point and as such a quotation from the final rule
is included: "Generally, the privacy rule allows for electronic documents to qualify as written documents
for purposes of meeting the rules requirements. This also applies with respect to the notice
acknowledgement. For notice delivered electronically, the department intends a return receipt or other
transmission from the individual to suffice as the notice acknowledgement. For notice delivered on
paper in a face-to-face encounter with the provider, although it is unclear to the Department how exactly
the provider may do so, the rule does not preclude providers from obtaining the individual's written
acknowledgments electronically. The Department cautions, however, that the notice acknowledgement
process is intended to alert individuals to the importance of the notice and provide them the opportunity
to discuss privacy issues with their providers. To ensure that individuals are aware of the importance of
the notice, the rule requires that the individual's acknowledgement the in writing. Thus the department
would not consider a receptionists notation in a computer system to be an individual's written
If an individual refuses to sign or otherwise fails to provide an acknowledgment, we are required to document
our good-faith efforts to obtain the acknowledgement and the reason why the acknowledgement was not
obtained. Failure to obtain an individual's acknowledgement, assuming we otherwise documented our
good faith effort, is not a violation of the rule. For example, there is no rule violation if an individual
refuses to sign the acknowledgement after they were requested to do so or if an individual is mailed the notice
of privacy policy and chooses not to mail back his or her receipt of acknowledgement.
By law of our office must retain acknowledgement receipts for six years from the date received. The rule does
not dictate the form in which the acknowledgments are to be saved. Although not required, other covered
entities (including us), may if they choose, require patients to provide written consent for the use and disclosure
of protected health information. However we are not required to determine the restrictions on another covered
entity’s consent form before disclosing information to that entity for TPO purposes.
An authorization is a more customized document that gives covered entities permission to use specified
PHI for specified purposes, which are generally other than TPO, or to disclose PHI to a third party
specified by the individual. Please see copy of our Patient Authorization Form to release PHI in the
“Documents & Forms” section of this manual. It covers only the uses and disclosures and only the PHI
stipulated in the authorization; it has an expiration date; and, in some cases, it also states the purpose for which
the information may be used or disclosed.
All covered entities, not just direct treatment providers, must obtain an authorization to use or disclose PHI for
these purposes. For example, a covered entity would need an authorization from individuals to sell a patient
mailing list, to disclose information to an employer for employment decisions, or to disclose information for
eligibility for life insurance. A provider may have to obtain separate authorizations from the same patient for
different uses or disclosures.
The privacy rule requires us to obtain authorization to use or disclose PHI maintained in psychotherapy notes
for treatment by persons other than the originator of the notes or for payment or for health care operations
purposes, except as specified in the privacy rule.
An authorization is also required if another entity requests disclosure of PHI for TPO purposes. For example, a
health plan seeking payment for a particular service from a second health plan, such as in coordination of
benefits or secondary payer situations, may need PHI from a physician who rendered the health-care services.
In this case the provider typically has been paid, and the transaction is between the plans. Since our disclosure
is for the TPO purposes of the plan, our authority to disclose PHI for TPO would not allow disclosure. Rather,
the plan would have to obtain the patient's authorization when requesting such a disclosure.
When our office makes “non - routine” disclosures of PHI for purposes other then TPO, we need to document
those disclosures and patients have the right to obtain an accounting of them. Our documentation of such
disclosures should include the following elements:
D – Date of Disclosure
W - Who the recipient is
W – What was disclosed
P – Purpose of the disclosure
Under HIPAA, patients have the right to access their own medical records. We need to respond to their
request within 30 days. Please see our “Patient Request to View / Amend Record” form in the “Forms &
Documents” section of this manual.
There are three options for granting patient’s access to their medical record:
1. Allow patient to view original copy with a representative from the practice (patients should never be
left alone with the original record).
2. Provide a summary of the record, if the patient agrees to it.
3. Provide a copy of the medical record, and a reasonable fee can be charged.
Patients also have the right to request changes or amendments to their medical record. Physicians do not have
to agree to these requests to amend the record, especially if it would make the record inaccurate.
HHS has declared that health care workers must take reasonable steps to limit the use or disclosure of,
and requests for Personal health information (PHI) to the minimum necessary to accomplish the intended
purpose. However, they are also very clear that restricting PHI to the minimum necessary should never
out way quality of patient care. A great deal of discretion is provided to the physician on the amount of
information provided to a third-party when patient treatment and quality of care is involved.
Whenever we deal with PHI always review and/or disclose the least information necessary to deliver the highest
quality care. We must determine our own standards for minimum necessary use and disclosure of patient
information. The privacy rule requires us to make reasonable efforts to limit use, disclosure of, and request for
protected health information to the minimum necessary to accomplish the intended purpose. We have
flexibility in assessing what protected health information is reasonably necessary for a particular purpose, given
the characteristics of our business and work force. This is a reasonableness standard that calls for good
judgment in adhering to generally acknowledged practice standards, while trying to limit any unnecessary
sharing of medical information.
Exceptions to the Minimum Necessary Provision:
Disclosures to or requests by a health care provider for treatment purposes.
Disclosures to the individual who is the subject of the information.
Uses or disclosures made pursuant to an authorization requested by the individual.
Uses or disclosures required for compliance with the standardized Health Insurance Portability and
Accountability Act (HIPAA) transactions.'
Disclosures to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) when disclosure of information is
required under the rule for enforcement purposes.
Uses or disclosures that are required by other law (i.e Federal or State Law)
The privacy rule does not prohibit the use of sign-in sheets, but it is generally recommended that the reason for
the patients visit not be included on the sign-in sheet.
Keep in mind that nothing in the Privacy Rule prevents you from discussing its concerns with the person
making the request, and negotiating an information exchange that meets the needs of both parties. If you have
real concern about a request, contact our Compliance Officer. The most difficult situations are when a nonroutine disclosure is needed. As a general rule, these special situations should be discussed with our HIPAA
Compliance Officer. In these cases we want to be especially vigilant that we determine and limit disclosure to
only the minimum amount of PHI necessary to accomplish the purpose of the non-routine disclosure.
We must evaluate our practice and enhance protections as needed to prevent unnecessary or
inappropriate access to PHI. If you have any suggestions as to how we can better limit access to and
disclosure of our patient information please bring this information to our HIPAA Compliance Officer. The
minimum necessary standard is intended to reflect and be consistent with, not override, professional judgment
and standards. Please keep in mind that we want to appropriately limit access to personal health
information without sacrificing the quality of health care that we offer.
The minimum necessary requirements do not prohibit medical residents, medical students, nursing students, and
other medical trainees from accessing patients' medical information in the course of their training. The
definition of "health care operations" in the rule provides for "conducting training programs in which students,
trainees, or practitioners in areas of health care learn under supervision to practice or improve their skills as
health care providers."
The minimum necessary concept does not need to be applied to disclosures to third parties that are authorized
by an individual, unless the authorization was requested by a covered entity for its own purposes. The Privacy
Rule exempts from the minimum necessary requirements most uses or disclosures that are authorized by
an individual. This includes authorizations covered entities may receive directly from third parties, such as life,
disability, or casualty insurers pursuant to the patient's application for or claim under an insurance policy.
We are not required to make a minimum necessary determination to disclose to federal or state agencies, such
as the Social Security Administration (SSA) or its affiliated state agencies or for individuals' applications for
federal or state benefits. These disclosures must be authorized by an individual and, therefore, are exempt from
the minimum necessary requirements.
HHS has said that the Privacy Rule does not prohibit use, disclosure, or requests of an entire medical record. As
with all of our policies the balance is to keep the patients health care utmost in your mind while at the same time
divulging the minimum information about the patient that is necessary for their best care. HSS has also said that
a covered entity may use, disclose, or request an entire medical record without a case-by-case justification. If
the covered entity has documented in its policies and procedures that the entire medical record is the amount
reasonably necessary for certain identified purposes.
It is important that you are aware of those persons or classes of person in our workforce that need to see the
entire medical record and the conditions, if any, that are appropriate for such access. We must, whenever
possible, restrict access to all or part of a patient’s medical record if it is not necessary for an employee to
complete their job duties. The Rule says that the basic standard for minimum necessary uses requires
that covered entities make reasonable efforts to limit access to PHI to those in the workforce that need
access based on their roles in the covered entity.
In this light, HHS has said that we should take into account our ability to configure our record systems to
allow access to only certain fields, and the practicality of organizing systems to allow this capacity. HHS have
said that it may not be reasonable for a small, solo practitioner with largely paper-based records system,
to limit access to certain employees. Alternatively, a hospital with an electronic patient record system may
reasonably implement such controls, and therefore, may choose to limit access in this manner to comply with
the rule. This is what is meant by reasonable efforts.
Regarding patient medical charts at bedside, empty prescription vials, X-ray light boards HHS has indicated that
specific workplace practices need to remain as they have been developed over the years in order to maintain
proper patient care and reasonable workflow. The minimum necessary standards do not prohibit us from
maintaining patient medical charts at bedside, nor do they require that we shred empty prescription
vials, or require that X-ray light boards be isolated.
As mentioned earlier in this manual, HHS has stated that the Privacy Rule applies to individually identifiable
health information in all forms, electronic, written, oral, and any other. Coverage of oral (spoken)
information ensures that information retains protections when discussed or read aloud from a computer screen
or a written document.
Basic Rules for Oral Communications about Patient Health Records
We are required to reasonably safeguard Personal health information (PHI), including oral
information, from any intentional or unintentional use or disclosure that is in violation of the Privacy
rule. The rules of oral communication basically are the same as those of written communication. You
should always use the minimum necessary information for best health care.
In particular, with oral communications, we require that our employees be discrete when talking to or
about patients. Be aware of who is in the area, who could listen in. Because we discuss health care
issues all day, it may be easy to assume a patient is not private about this information. Always assume
the patient wants the minimum number of ears to hear the minimum necessary information about their
health care. Again, the minimum necessary standard does not apply to disclosures, including oral
disclosures, among providers for treatment purposes.
"Reasonably safeguard" means that you must make reasonable efforts to prevent uses and disclosures
not permitted by the rule. However, HHS does not expect reasonable safeguards to guarantee the privacy
of PHI from any and all potential risks. HHS has said that in determining whether a covered entity has
provided reasonable safeguards, the Department will take into account all the circumstances, including
the potential effects on patient care and the financial and administrative burden of any safeguards.
Remember, balance privacy with patient care.
It is important that all our employees interacting with patients speak quietly when discussing a
patient's condition with family members in a waiting room or other public area, and avoid speaking
about patients in public hallways and elevators. Protection of patient confidentiality is an important part
of our practice.
If the patient or others has difficulty hearing or exhibits other communication problems, take them to a
private area when discussing health information. There is nothing more embarrassing to a patient than to
be walking out of a crowded waiting room and have the nurse talking about their treatment or
medications. It is not only embarrassing, now it is illegal.
Talking to other Providers and Patients
The Privacy Rule is not intended to prohibit providers from talking to each other and to their patients. The
rule only requires covered entities to implement reasonable (there's that word again) safeguards that reflect
'their particular circumstances and exempting treatment disclosures from certain requirements are intended
to ensure that providers' primary consideration is the appropriate treatment of their patients.
HHS has also said that they also understand that overheard communications are unavoidable. For
example, in a busy emergency room, it may be necessary for providers to speak loudly in order to
ensure appropriate treatment. The Privacy Rule is not intended to prevent this appropriate behavior.
Calling out Patient names
Calling out a patient’s name in a waiting room is allowed.
Private Rooms and Soundproof Walls
The Privacy Rule does not require hospitals and physicians' offices to be retrofitted, to provide private
rooms, and soundproof walls to avoid any possibility that a conversation is overheard. As you work around
the office, you should make yourself aware of the level of voice that is needed to maintain privacy in
different areas of the office.
Once again reasonable safeguards are appropriate. The rule does not require that all risk be eliminated to
satisfy this standard.
Patient access to oral information
HHS has said that covered entities do not need to provide patients access to oral information. The
Privacy Rule requires covered entities to provide individuals with access to PHI about themselves that is
contained in their "designated record sets." The term "record" in the term "designated record set" does not
include oral information; rather, it connotes information that has been recorded in some manner.
We do not have to document ALL oral communications
If the oral communications you are giving are relevant to any disclosures signed by the patient or if they
have anything to do with following The Privacy Rule, or if they can be used in patient care, we
recommend that you document this in the patient's records. Once again we strive to provide the best patient
care without wasting time documenting events or actions that will not help the patient.
HHS' definition of a Business Associate
A business associate is a person or entity who provides certain functions, activities, or services
for or to a covered entity, involving the use and/or disclosure of PHI.
A business associate is not a member of the health care provider, health plan, or other covered .
entity's workforce.
A health care provider, health plan, or other covered entity can also be a business associate to
another covered entity.
The rule includes exceptions. The business associate requirements do not apply to covered
entities who disclose PHI to providers for treatment purposes - for example, information
exchanges between a hospital and physicians with admitting privileges at the hospital.
In allowing providers and plans to give Personal health information (PHI) to "business associates,"
the Privacy Rule conditions such disclosures on the provider or plan obtaining, typically by contract,
satisfactory assurances that the business associate will:
1. Use the information only for the purposes for which they were engaged by the covered entity.
2. Safeguard the information from misuse.
3. Help the covered entity comply with the covered entity's duties to provide individuals with access to
health information about them and a history of certain disclosures (e.g., if the business associate
maintains the only copy of information, it must promise to cooperate with the covered entity to provide
individuals access to information upon request).
HHS has stressed that PHI may be disclosed to a business associate only to help the providers and plans
carry out their health care functions - not for independent use by the business associate. If you have any
questions about whether a particular business associate of ours is properly contracted under the HIPAA
rules, please contact the Compliance Officer. We have a "Business Associates PHI Privacy Agreement" that
should be used in situations where required.
Business Associates have more narrow provisions of Rule
Our contract with business associates covers a set of contractual obligations far narrower than the provisions
of the rule, to protect information generally and help us comply with our obligations under the rule. The
Privacy Rule does not "pass through" its requirements to business associates or otherwise cause business
associates to comply with the terms of the rule. For example, HHS has said that we do not need to ask their
business associates to agree to appoint privacy officer, or develop policies and procedures for use and
disclosure of PHI.
Our Liability for business associates violations of the Privacy Rule
HHS has said that a health care provider, health plan, or other covered entity is not liable for privacy
violations of a business associate. We are not required to actively monitor or oversee the means by which
the business associate carries out safeguards or the extent to which the business associate abides by the
requirements of the contract. Because businesses by law are specifically covered by the Rule, business
associate's violation of the terms of the contract does not, in and of itself, constitute a violation of the rule by
our practice. Under our contract, business associates must advise us when violations have occurred. If we
become aware of a pattern or practice of a business associate that constitutes a material breach or violation
of that business associate's obligations under our contract, we are required by HHS to take "reasonable
steps" to cure the breach or to end the violation.
The Privacy Rule provides individuals with certain rights with respect to their personal health
information, including the right to obtain access to and to request amendment of health information
about themselves. These rights rest with that individual, or with the "personal representative" of that
individual. In general, a person's right to control Personal health information (PHI) is based on that
person's right (under state or other applicable law, e.g., tribal or military law) to control the health care
The concepts below will give you excellent guidance regarding confidential relationships and parents or
guardians. If you find yourself in a situation where you are not sure as to the PHI you should divulge to a
parent, guardian or child, please check with our Compliance Officer.
Because a parent usually has authority to make health care decisions about his or her minor child, a
parent is generally a "personal representative" of his or her minor child under the Privacy Rule and has
the right to obtain access to health information about his or her minor child. This would also be true in the
case of a guardian or other person acting in loco parentis of a minor.
There are exceptions in which a parent might not be the "personal representative" with respect to certain
health information about a minor child. In the following situations, the Privacy Rule defers to
determinations under other law that the parent does not control the minor's health care decisions and, thus,
does not control the PHI related to that care.
When state or other law does not require consent of a parent or other person before a minor can
obtain a particular health care service, and the minor consents to the health care service, the
parent is not the minor's personal representative under the Privacy Rule. For example, when a
state law provides an adolescent the right to consent to mental health treatment without the
consent of his or her parent, and the adolescent obtains such treatment without the consent of the
parent, the parent is not the personal representative under the Privacy Rule for that treatment. The
minor may choose to involve a parent in these health care decisions without giving up his or her
right to control the related health information. Of course, the minor may always have the parent
continue to be his or her personal representative even in these situations.
When a court determines or other law authorizes someone other than the parent to make treatment
decisions for a minor, the parent is not the personal representative of the minor for the relevant
services. For example, courts may grant authority to make health care decisions for the minor to
an adult other than the parent, to the minor, or' the court may make the decision(s) itself. In order
to not undermine these court decisions, the parent is not the personal representative under the
Privacy Rule in these circumstances.
In the following situations, the Privacy Rule reflects current professional practice in determining that the
parent is not the minor's personal representative with respect to the relevant PHI:
When a parent agrees to a confidential relationship between the minor and the physician, the
parent does not have access to the health information related to that conversation or relationship.
For example, if a physician asks the parent of a 16-year old if the physician can talk with the child
confidentially about a medical condition and the parent agrees, the parent would not control the
PHI that was discussed during that confidential conference.
When a physician (or other covered entity) reasonably believes in his or her professional judgment that
the child has been or may be subjected to abuse or neglect, or that treating the parent as the child's
personal representative could endanger the child, the physician may choose not to treat the parent as the
personal representative of the child.
State Laws
In addition to the provisions (described above) tying the right to control information to the right to control
treatment, the Privacy Rule also states that it does not preempt state laws that specifically address
disclosure of health information about a minor to a parent (§ 160.202). This is true whether the state law
authorizes or prohibits such disclosure.
Parental Consent
The Privacy Rule addresses access to health information, not the underlying treatment. The Rule does not
address consent to treatment, nor does it preempt or change state or other laws that address consent to
Emergency medical care without a parent's consent
Even though a parent does not provide consent to treatment in an emergency medical situation, under the
Privacy Rule, the parent would still be the child's personal representative. This would not be so only when
the minor provided consent (and no other consent is required) or the treating physician suspects abuse or
neglect or reasonably believes that releasing the information to the parent will endanger the child.
In order to understand the Privacy Rule as it pertains to patient payments, we first must give the HHS definition
of payment. "Payment" is a defined term that encompasses the various activities of health care providers to
obtain payment or be reimbursed for their services and for a health plan to obtain premiums, to fulfill their
coverage responsibilities and provide benefits under the plan, and to obtain or provide reimbursement for
the provision of health care. In addition to the general definition, the Privacy Rule provides examples of
common payment activities which include, but are not limited to:
Determining eligibility or coverage under a plan and adjudicating claims;
Risk adjustments;
Billing and collection activities;
Reviewing health care services for medical necessity, coverage, justification of charges, and the like;
Utilization review activities; and
Disclosures to consumer reporting agencies (limited to specified identifying information about the
individual, his or her payment history, and identifying information about the covered entity).
HHS has said that as provided for by the Privacy Rule, our practice may use and disclose Personal
health information (PHI) for payment purposes.
Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies
The Privacy Rule's definition of "payment" includes disclosures to consumer reporting agencies. These
disclosures, however, are limited to the following PHI about the individual: name and address; date of birth;
social security number; payment history; and account number.
Debt Collection Agencies
The Privacy Rule permits our practice to use the services of debt collection agencies. Debt collection is
recognized as a payment activity within the "payment" definition. Disclosures to collection agencies under a
business associate agreement are governed by other provisions of the rule, and the minimum necessary
Location information services of collection agencies and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
As described above, "Payment" is broadly defined as activities by health plans or health care providers to obtain
premiums or obtain or provide reimbursements for the provision of health care. The activities specified are by
way of example and are not intended to be an exclusive listing. Billing, claims management, collection
activities, and related data processing are expressly included in the definition of "payment”.
HHS has stated that obtaining information about the location of the individual is a routine activity to facilitate
the collection of amounts owed and the management of accounts receivable. Therefore, would constitute a
payment activity. We would still have to comply with any limitations placed on location information services
by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.